By: Jeffrey Low
“Who feels like being brave?” Neil Pasricha, international best-selling author, asked a small group of McMaster students in a quiet Zoom call, prompting them to share something that was troubling them or something they needed help with.
An air of uneasiness — the type that often accompanies such questions that hint at our vulnerability — filled the virtual room. One, two, ten seconds of silence passed. Finally, a brave attendee unmuted, and the conversation began.
Putting yourself out there is tough — especially in a Zoom call. However, Neil finds that vulnerable moments can lead to honest and authentic discussions, even for Zoom-fatigued and virtually withdrawn audiences. “We are all lonely and bored and stressed,” Neil explains. “I use the word ‘brave’ because I’m complimenting people [for] being vulnerable enough to discuss that before they even discuss it. That way, we create a safe space.”
The event began with an intimate in-conversation session between Neil and members of the Lit(erary) Club, a group of first-year students facilitated by the Student Success Centre to help new Marauders build a virtual community of like-minded peers.
The second part of the event, which was open to all McMaster students, continued with more audience engagement and advice. No bulleted presentation slides. No flashy graphics. Just honest conversation — and a few handwritten messages.
Naviya, master’s Health Sciences student and event attendee, shares, “I expected this event to be a formal PowerPoint presentation with Neil… In reality, the event with him was more like a conversation between friends than a formal event.”
Neil offered simple, easy-to-follow advice.
Are you feeling disconnected and longing for social interaction? Try going for a walk and (safely) chatting with people along the way. “Hey” is the only conversation starter you’ll ever need.
Are you feeling a lack of direction or future goals? Design your life around how you want to spend your days. Prioritize and set goals based on things that give your life meaning.
Neil also encouraged everyone in the Zoom room to live a more intentional life by adding simple activities and adjustments to their daily routine.
Start each day the right way, and resist negativity. For two minutes each morning, think about and write down:
- I will let go of…
- I am grateful for…
- I will focus on…
Turn off your phone one hour before you go to bed and read some fiction to unwind. And don’t even think about sleeping next to your phone — put it in another room so it doesn’t tempt you. (If you attended the event, feel free to read that again with Neil’s emphatic tone.)
Reflect on your day with gratefulness — rose, rose, thorn, bud. Before bed, think about two positives (roses), a negative (thorn) and something you’re excited for (bud).
Between bits of advice, conversation ensued: Neil shared his experiences with divorce and losing a loved one. Students recommended guests for Neil’s podcast, 3 Books with Neil Pasricha. And the chat remained consistently engaged — “YAAASSS.”
At a time when virtual events and opportunities are the only way to make connections outside of the classroom, You Are Awesome with Neil Pasricha demonstrated that virtual events can still be spontaneous and organic.
For Dione, a first-year Humanities student, “there’s not a lot that gets you excited about sitting in front of your computer. Neil is an exception. His energy radiated through the screen as he gave us real advice on how to realize our potential to become awesome. Even more than that, he was honest and authentic about it. It felt as though he was talking through to a huge crowd, but also to me personally.”
For more helpful advice, articles and information on living an intentional life, check out Neil’s website. You can buy his books, join his newsletter, sign up for his free book club and check out his podcast.